So long, Taylor: Swift tortures fans with new album

As if the general public hasn’t gotten enough of her in the past year or two, Taylor Swift released her 11th studio album, “The Tortured Poets Department (TTPD),” on Friday. Going into the album, fans didn’t know what to expect for the sonic or lyrical content, with no prior singles after the announcement at the Grammys in February. The result of this, though, was an album that underwhelmed.

The album’s black-and-white aesthetic and emphasis on poetry hinted at possible similarities to Swift’s 2020 releases, “folklore” and “evermore,” but many songs are also surprisingly reminiscent of her 2022 album, “Midnights.” Swift worked almost exclusively with songwriters and producers Aaron Dessner and Jack Antonoff on “TTPD,” as she has on all of her new music since 2020. The similarities then make sense, but it’s unfortunate that “TTPD” doesn’t have its own identity and ends up feeling like a messy extension of the last four years of Swift’s discography.

“TTPD” does have some bright moments, though. As usual, Swift’s lyrics steal the show, even though they may not be up to par with her past work. The songs about her breakup with actor Joe Alwyn, whom she dated for almost six years, are particularly powerful. “So Long, London” is one of Swift’s most heart-wrenching track fives — the songs that tend to be her most vulnerable on her albums — as she reflects on leaving London, and subsequently her relationship with Alwyn, behind. The song is full of motifs that Swift has used to reference Alwyn in previous songs, not only because of the references to England but also the mention of an altar and the color blue in the bridge.

“Florida!!!,” which features Florence + The Machine, is a memorable song, mostly because the minor key, harmonies and pounding drums in the chorus create a distinctly dark sound. “I Can Do It With a Broken Heart” also stands out because, despite its “Midnights”-esque twinkling synths, the lyrics capture, through cheeky humor, a vivid picture of Swift’s state of mind while touring.

Only two hours after the initial release, Swift announced “TTPD” as a double album called “The Anthology” and released the second half, totaling 31 songs and more than two hours in length. With 15 additional songs produced by Dessner and Antonoff, the album becomes exhausting to listen to. The songs sound almost indistinguishable from each other and conjure a sense of déjà vu from Swift’s past work, too.

Swift might be suffering from her success. She has significantly more freedom with her current label, Republic Records, and has only grown in popularity since signing with them in 2019. Swift knows that her fans will praise — and buy — just about anything she releases, and while she may feel like she’s exercising artistic freedom or treating her fans with a double album, it does come at the expense of her artistry. 

The quality of her work diminishes when she tries to stuff as many songs on an album as possible. The same thing happened with 2019’s “Lover” on an albeit smaller scale when its 18 songs made the album feel as if it was telling two stories. A major part of crafting an album is the tracklist, and it becomes apparent when an artist ignores it.

This is not to say that Swift entirely neglected “TTPD’s” tracklist because she’s known for putting an obsessive level of detail into her projects. However, 31 songs are simply too much to parse through. I don’t care to analyze why she has placed songs in a specific order or what certain lyrics mean after two hours of listening to songs that aren’t memorable enough to stay in mind longer than their three-minute duration.

With Swift’s recent billionaire status and the massive success of “The Eras Tour,” it’s only become more obvious that Swift enjoys fame and money. Releasing a 31-song double album begs the question of whether Swift’s motives are entirely artistic. She and her team are notorious for putting out limited-time merch drops and numerous versions of exclusive deluxe edition CDs, meaning they regularly play the game of racking up sales and streams to chart high and break records. Because “TTPD” isn’t Swift’s highest-quality work, the double album feels like this same ploy.

Ultimately, “TTPD” doesn’t seem ready for release. Perhaps Swift wanted to tell her side of the story about her recent romantic relationships or publicly share the processing of her emotional turmoil, but considering how hectic her past year has been, it may have been wiser to wait and refine the album’s lyrics and sound. Just because Swift wrote these songs as a coping mechanism doesn’t mean she needed to torture the world with them all.


2/5 stars


Featured photo courtesy of @taylorswift, Instagram